Aside from some foot pains related to barefoot running, I have now suffered my first real running injury: strained IT band. It started on Sunday night after the Freedom 5k, I took a nap and woke up with a sore left hip. I thought nothing of it even though I had not properly stretched and knew I should have. For the next day or so, it was still sore but then it cleared up…until Thursday. Yesterday, I went for my first run around FAU’s Boca campus between classes and most of the run felt great. I noticed some slight pain and tightness in my left hip but either it subsided or I was simply more worried about the terrible state of the concrete sidewalks at FAU. All of my classes are on the “old” part of the campus where buildings have stood for the better part of 30 years or more, whereas the sidewalks on the newer side of campus — where the fabulous new Rec Center and football stadium are located — are absolutely delightful. They are smooth, flat, single pour concrete, incredible to run on. But those sidewalks on my side of campus? Like running on gravel. Gravel with no give. I was hoping to pull a 5k run but was cut short due to time but I am glad I did not run further because I was in some serious pain after I was done. Besides my feet throbbing from the battered concrete, thanks tree roots!, my pelvic girdle was screaming at me. In hindsight, I simply should have run in the grass or on the road as the sidewalk made me seriously alter my form to heavily overpronate and roll my feet on each fall. Looks like I may be running in my huaraches at school rather than barefoot.

That’s where it all went downhill and it only got worse as the night went on. As I walked to the campus Starbucks, I truly realized how much my hip was hurting and how badly my lower back/girdle was starting to hurt. Eventually, simply taking a step or two sent pain down my pelvis thanks to poor form during my run. Just sitting in class was painful so I ended up leaving and coming home to stretch and I jammed through my typical stretching routine while adding in Mobility WOD’s couch stretch (FYI: it hurts like hell, try the super couch if you like pain). When I woke up this morning, it was even worse and I hobbled to my office to work. Throughout the day I was so uncomfortable that I would go outside frequently to stretch out my IT band. I must have done ten different stretches and it took finally getting off work and onto my couch for the pain to subside. For the most part, mobility has been restored and pain is gone but it is still a tad sore, which stinks because I was going to go to Strong Owl training but may default to TRX Bootcamp if I can get over to campus before sign-up closes.

My running this week was already way down but now thanks to my terrible upkeep and a dumb IT band injury I could have avoided, next week’s training is compromised too. I was hoping to start ramping up mileage to start working on a 10k distance but that looks like it will be put on hold until this band stretches out but at least I can get some free cross-training in since I am pushing off any more races until next month. Plus, I really miss running with my running buddy, I have had to forgo running with him for something like two weeks in a row and it makes me feel terrible. I feel like the worst running partner because of my own stupidity.

Hopefully things will improve next week.

Sunday was the Runner’s Edge Summer’s End 5k in east Boca. I registered for the race because it was cheap and they advertised free food, that was reason enough for me to run it. Clearly, I had no intentions of being serious at all during this hot August afternoon.

This was as serious as I was all day

This was as serious as I was all day

This was pretty much as serious as I acted the entire race until I finished and had nothing else on my mind except heading to the restroom. The race itself was held in east Boca and we ran an amazing route that led us from the Runner’s Edge store down Spanish River Blvd onto A1A, running parallel to the beach. I have never run this route and I’m pretty sure I will make an effort to do so in the future because not only was the ocean an amazing sight during the run, the course included some light hill work which I never integrate into my weekly runs. Also, I am pretty sure it will serve me to run there and see some pretty ladies in bikinis, that never hurts as motivation. This was my second barefoot race and proved more to me than the first one I ran in July: my feet can take the pain and it’s way more liberating to run wherever you want without worrying about getting your shoes dirty. I even kicked off the race celebrating my naked feet.

No shoes, jump for joy!

No shoes, jump for joy!

I was the only barefoot runner in this race as well although I did spy one girl wearing some VFFs in the middle of the pack, everyone else was wearing boring old shoes. I did see more Nike Free 2.0 and 3.0 shoes and some Inov8’s this time around, for whatever that’s worth.

This race was coincidentally my first run all week as I started back to school and I was not sure if I would be able to run the entire length since I could not run the full 5k the last time around and my feet were feeling really soft and girly, definitely not up to the task of pounding the pavement. Well, suffice it to say, I managed to run the entire thing except for a span of perhaps 5 seconds when I had to stop because I felt like a rock had implanted itself into my big toe; this of course had to occur when I was perhaps 100 yards from the finish. I managed to cross the line in 32:46 according to my Garmin and this serves as my “official” time since this was just a fun run and no times were kept. I did not manage to set a PR on this race but I had not set out to do so, simply running the time was record enough for me — back in the Run, Sweat, and Beers 5k I only managed to run about 2 or 2.5 miles while walking the rest of the distance. While I finished and finished strong, I also came across the line shirtless, revealing to everyone my blinding white torso accompanied by a lovely farmer’s tan

Topless and no tan, almost as bad as socks with sandals

Topless and no tan, almost as bad as socks with sandals

I am positive no one received any joy out of seeing this, it just serves to remind me I need to go topless more often to even out whatever tan I do have, after all I do live in the Sunshine State. Mental note: stop wearing shirts and just let it all hang out. Overall, I had a really good time and ran better than I expected to given my week-long laziness. My only disappointment was that I came away injured, I suffered a bloody toe of my own doing while trying to kick a rock off of my middle toe. Next time, I will just stop and flick it off rather than trying to use the road to do the work for me, now I only have a hurt toe to show for it.

My runs will probably be light this week until I get my full schedule worked out with my classes but I can be proud in that I ended August on a high note. I thoroughly enjoyed the race while everyone else looked entirely too serious during the whole thing. I saw more scowls and mean faces than I did smiles, I thought running made us all feel good! Just look at all these serious faces!

LET'S ALL LOOK SERIOUS AND PREPARED.  I stood in the back where the party started.

LET'S ALL LOOK SERIOUS AND PREPARED. I stood in the back where the party started.

I look forward to meeting you next year, Summer’s End 5k!

This week has been full of barefoot revelations for myself. First off, my Merrell Trail Glove shoes no longer fit. I tried to put them on before heading to the podiatrist on Tuesday and I was barely able to slip them on past my metatarsals. While I did manage to literally squeeze my foot into one, I immediately took it off due to the sheer pain it was causing. It was my first time trying to put them on in probably a month or more, so I either have completely outgrown them (and Merrell does not make/recognize the need for wider widths) or I need to re-lace them again. I have a feeling my feet no longer fit into them and despite what the podiatrist said, I am pretty sure it’s not because my feet are swollen and if they are, the swelling is so minimal I cannot tell. So, I am now out of shoes and need to purchase more in preparation for my mud runs later this year. I like to barefoot run but the waivers for these runs strongly advise against doing them barefoot since there is stuff like barbed wire involved. I am considering buying the following:

  • Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra (in garish red!)
  • Invisible Shoe huaraches or other brand of huaraches
  • Luna sandals
  • Vibram Bikila (or similar)
  • Vibrams are dead last on my list because I have debated for the last four years about buying some and if I have not done so by now, I doubt I will in the next four months. I would love to replace or even fit back into my Merrells but I do not think that will be an option unless they release larger widths — another thing I do not see happening at all. So revelation one: barefoot running can somewhat increase the size of your foot on multiple planes. This means if you want to do this, expect your regular shoes to potentially no longer fit. The only shoes I have not outgrown during my barefoot run ‘career’ are my sandals — although the podiatrist said they are too narrow — and my extra wide motorcycle boots (which I no longer wear because they cause leg imbalances leading to MCL strains).

    My next revelation is this: habitual forefoot strikers are going to always experience a minimal amount of foot pain and soreness. Of course, the soreness is a given since you are pounding your foot directly into the ground for your run. I have always been a forefoot striker ever since my days in school when I played football and ran track; my shoes have always worn through on the toes more quickly than anywhere else. On my barefoot runs, I notice that I strike quite prominently on the balls of my feet and depending on my pace, hardly ever have my heels touching the ground. The latter part is a surefire disaster waiting to happen and I am working on it. I am finding it very difficult to re-train my gait to pull back a bit and land more stably on my midfoot, I suspect this will be true for any runners who spent an extended amount of training focusing only on speed — there is a reason my coaches told me to do one thing on kick-offs “get to the player before the ball does”. Since I am now a member of the GFLRRC, I will make my best attempts to hit the FAU track to work with the coach and see what kind of tips he can offer me.

    But I noticed something strange last week during the Levis JCC 5k, when I was pounding down the first two miles, I landed predominantly on my midfoot with some mild rolling to the outside of my foot. It was only when I started to slow down from the 180BPM pace did I start landing on my forefoot and noticing more strain placed on my muscles. Scott Jurek was certainly right: focus on at least 90 steps per minute with each leg (cf. Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body, it’s a better read than people give Ferriss credit for). If I can focus at least 80%-90% of my training at that speed, I am pretty sure I will be pumping out a much better track time next month at the ING Miami Marathon Kick-off 5k.

    The last thing I have finally learned convinced myself of: running on concrete is always going to hurt. It is hard, not spongy, and abrasive. Sure, the soles of my feet are very smooth, yet tough, thanks to the exfoliating they get every time I run but I just need to realize that it is a crappy surface to run on. I hate running on it but unlike grass, it does not conceal broken glass or dog poop so it is a pretty safe surface to run on. But now my running partner and I are running at a local park and it is more enjoyable since we are not dodging cars any more, just frisbees from all the ultimate frisbee/frisbee golf players at the park.

    Got another barefoot run tonight and then it is Tijuana Thursday time! I will stuff my gullet with a humongous salad from Tijuana Flats, covered with an insane amount of tomatoes and onions. YUM!

    Levis JCC 5k

    Yesterday was the Levis JCC Run, Sweat, & Beers 5k and my first official 5k. While this was a small run — there were just under 400 registered runners — it felt like there were a thousand people there! So many people around and cheering and crewing the course, it felt awesome. Since this is my first 5k, it was exhilarating to be in that environment and I can see why people run races, you get a high from the atmosphere alone! While I did not win, I placed 24th in my age group and 205th overall. There was no way I was going to win, first place went to a 15 year old from Boynton Beach who smoked the course at 17:56.5; he was nearly a minute faster than the next finisher who was twice his age, it blew my mind! I know everyone’s anxious to see stats, so here they are.

    Levis JCC 5k

    Levis JCC 5k

    My Garmin clocked 32:14 and my official time was 32:16 from my AccuChip. While this was two minutes off of my goal time of 30:00 , I did manage to run 30 seconds faster than my first timed 5k almost a month ago. Looking back at my full stats, my splits were nearly identical between the two with the 3rd mile showing me really gassing out. However, this time my first mile was nearly 30 seconds faster in total, I was burning up my soles on this one! Here are the full summary stats from my watch.

    Levis JCC 5k stats breakdown

    Levis JCC 5k stats breakdown

    The only thing I am not proud of is my heart rate, it was through the roof. Maybe it was the excitement of the event, the higher than normal humidity, I am not sure but 188bpm is way too high for me to be comfortable and I will be working on that for sure. I did manage to get a few photos at the event. Nothing special but the shots of my feet prove one thing: I run on my forefoot too much, I have to figure out how to flatten that out into a midfoot strike a bit more.

    Anyway, I finished and I am very proud of myself and I am working to line up the next few races. I have two mudders later in the year — Champions MudBash in November, Warrior Dash in December — but I need to find some regular races too. While I did not go home with an award, I got a sweet tech shirt and one thing I did not expect at all: dozens of people cheering on the only barefooter in the race. Out of 400 people, I was the only one smart crazy enough to pull it out barefoot. Of course, there were the usual hecklers and I just rolled with them, saying things like “I forgot them in the car!” or “I couldn’t find the shoe store!”, that stuff got a lot of smiles and laughs. I am not here to debate this stuff with people, I just want to run. Even the sports doctors there didn’t blink an eye at me when I got some KT tape over my 4th metatarsal on my left foot, they just said good luck. Biggest disappointment of the race? No beer! Yep, this was the Run, Sweat, & Beers 5k and they brought two kegs of beer. Those were floated before race results were read, so I went to World of Beer and had a bunch of good beers.

    The weekend’s here and I am going to find some food, I am home alone and do not want to cook!

    My day went mostly like the title says. Got up and weighed in, I tipped the scales at 202lbs, which was exactly what I had weighed yesterday morning. That was news to my eyes and conscience because I pigged out yesterday, hardcore. Despite being on a strict primal diet, I am adhering to an even more strict philosophy of eating well and conscientiously all week but one day a week, I binge on whatever I want. Not only does it stave off cravings during the week, it throws my physiology for a loop to keep my body churning and moving forward. My bingeing yesterday seemed to keep my body definitely on track as I maintained weight despite eating (and drinking) very poorly. But it was awesome eating pancakes and drinking beer again.

    Then there is the down part of today: staring down chores. After breakfast and coupon clipping, the girlfriend went grocery shopping while I hunkered down and cleaned up the house and moved a bunch of stuff from the dining room into my office. It is amazing what I managed to fit in my tiny office closet, I have no intentions of screwing up the organization, so I plan on never opening the door. Next order of business was moving to outside and mowing. In hindsight, I did not think this through all the way. While the temperatures hovered around 90F, the heat index was over 100F and here I was, mowing in the middle of the day. I should have remembered that my meteorology professor always told us the hottest part of the day was between 2 and 3 PM, the prime time when I was cutting grass. I got everything done but I came away from it super dehydrated and absolutely covered in sweat. This is where things went even further downhill. After rehydrating, sort of, I had the bright idea it was a good time to run. After all, it was after 5 and the sun was less overhead than it had been, I was already sweaty and warmed up.

    Well, that turned out to be a pretty stupid idea.

    After I washed all the dirt off my feet and flip-flops — it is amazing how much dirt gets kicked up mowing the lawn — I switched into my old flops and headed over to my buddy’s house to run. I figured that since I was very warmed up from having spent the last two hours or so walking around, I figured that I was well prepared to run. Ignoring the signals my body was giving me, we headed out and I was doomed from the start. Everything just felt off. My stride was off the mark (scrapped my big toe across the concrete, ouch), my breathing was definitely off (side stitch/cramp in less than half a mile), and I was still woefully dehydrated feeling. In other words: running was a pretty stupid idea. It was great being out with my buddy and running but my body just was not up to it. We had to stop a few times to wait for traffic and each time my legs felt a little heavier, I attributed it to just being a little more warmed up than normal and that it would pass once I broke into a good stride on a long stretch. Then it happened:

    I bonked, hard. My first bonk.

    We had reached our route’s typical walking/cool-down section and since we had just completed the C25k time (week 3 day 3, for about the fifth time), I suggested we simply run the next half mile or so back to my running partner’s place at our own pace. Well, my pace turned out to be walking. I took about fifteen or twenty heavy steps and gave out completely. My legs barely moved and worse, I felt an over-use pain in my right inner quad and in my right foot. I knew the pain meant a few things: it was temporary, I had taken a turn too capriciously earlier in the run, and my glycogen stores were empty. I was walking at a snail’s pace it seemed and I was happy with that, this particular part of the trail is rough on my feet. Plus, someone was nice enough to break a bottle on the road and I had to dodge glass for about one hundred feet. A few pieces got stuck to my feet but did not pierce, luckily. There was a glimmer of sunshine in all of this: no blisters this time and my soles only hurt once I stopped running.

    So my first bonk turned out to be a humbling learning experience and saved me from some cut feet. I felt only slightly defeated since I knew why it had happened (hint: do not go cutting your grass and then fully expect to go running afterward) but it garnered some good conversation on the walk back. But I still experienced a bonk and still sucked.

    Little did I know it but I had a little surprise waiting for me when I got home.

    Killing it, weight-loss style

    Killing it, weight-loss style

    All the pounding I put myself through today outside paid off. I dropped a pound and a half of weight today. I know that much of it was water weight from yesterday however, tomorrow morning’s body measurements will clue me into whether any of it was fat weight. I felt absolutely AWESOME seeing that scale read out 200.5lbs, especially after I had consumed 16 fl oz of milk and another cup or two of water since I had gotten home about 45 minutes before I stepped on the scales. Sure, I bonked hard today out on the running route but it served a purpose.

    Running (and blogging) will be light this week since I have family coming into town on Tuesday and we are going out of town on Friday, so I have to make up my miles where I can. I hope this includes a few runs I will update about next week!